Within the year, hospitals and other Medicare/Medicaid eligible providers will face the challenge of proving compliance with Stage 2 Meaningful Use standards as a condition of continued par ticipation in the Affordable Care Act EMR Incentive Plan. While Stage 1 required physicians to provide their patients with electronic access to their medical data – a goal primarily accomplished through the deployment of EMR systems and patient portals – Stage 2 takes it a significant step further. Not only do eligible providers need to demonstrate that half of their population has online access to health records, but at least 5% of those patients must log in and either enter their own data or send an unsolicited secure message back to their provider. In other words, it is no longer enough to simply give patients tools to communicate electronically with providers. Now, providers must demonstrate that their patients are actively participating in the process.
PATIENT ENGAGEMENT PRACTICES FALLING SHORT
This has a lot of CIOs, CMOs and, ultimately, CEOs worried – and with good reason. In October, 2012, the CMS issued a report finding that 70% of physicians who achieved Stage 1 Meaningful Use requested an exclusion from the requirement that they demonstrate successful fulfillment of patient requests for electronic health records. Why? Because not one of their patients had ever made a request for an electronic copy of their records.1
There are ample studies supporting the premise behind the CMS Patient Engagement mandates clearly revealing how patients, when actively involved in their own healthcare decisions, have overall better treatment outcomes, fewer readmissions, and a more positive attitude towards their care providers.
Yet, as Eric Manley, eHealth Systems Manager for the Mayo Clinic stated in his keynote address at the 2013 HIMSS conference, even Mayo’s sophisticated electronic system was only capturing 2 to 3 % of their patients, falling far short of the benchmark. “Simply making the services available will not attract users,” he said. “Unless you engage patients, you will not meet your MU requirements.” 2
Perhaps it is not for lack of information, but poor timing and delivery of information, that inhibits patients from embracing their own healthcare management. That premise is supported by recent reports from the Institute of Medicine and Annuals of Emergency Medicine revealing that more than 78% of patients reported not fully understanding their ER discharge instructions, and nearly half of all adults in the U.S. overall admit having trouble understanding what their doctors have explained about their illness and how to manage their medications.3
BEST PRACTICE SUGGESTIONS FROM A CTO
Mike Sorensen, former CTO for a major Chicago area hospital system and now President of Mutare Health, suggests that strategic use of mobile communications can play a significant role in motivating patients to take the necessary steps towards self-care, and provides these tips:
- Do not overwhelm already stressed patients with folders of instructions at discharge. Instead, use a multi-channel message delivery service, integrated with your EMR if possible, to automatically send follow-up instructions and appointment reminders through the patient’s preferred method (voice call, email and/or text) once he or she is home and in a better state to absorb that information.
- Bring the patient family advocate into the process. Hospitals are using Mutare’s mobile Vital Link secure messaging solution not only to deliver healthcare-related information and reminders to patients during and after hospital stays. Vital Link can also be used as a patient advocate support system which delivers regular patient status updates to family members or designated advocates throughout a hospital stay and, if necessary, post-discharge. Recognizing the important role a competent advocate can play in helping patients, particularly elderly patients, understand their medical care needs will go a long way in reducing miscommunication and, ultimately, elevate care outcomes and overall patient satisfaction.
- Entice patients with regular, personalized electronic communication post-discharge. This not only increases their comfort level with digital technology but can also be an effective vehicle for encouraging use of their patient portal. In addition to relevant medical information or reminders, each message delivery should conclude with an invitation and link to sign onto the portal. A patient who is already seeing the advantages of electronic messaging will be more likely to embrace the convenience of two-way reciprocation if regularly offered the chance.
LOWER COSTS, HIGHER QUALITY THROUGH SECURE MOBILE TECHNOLOGY
“Enhancing your hospital communication systems with secure mobile messaging technology like Mutare’s Vital Link does not have to be expensive and, in fact, can actually reduce or eliminate reliance on more costly and less effective technologies,” says Sorensen. “Patient Engagement practices that are both simple and relevant will go a long way towards Meaningful Use achievement, reduced healthcare costs and, more importantly, improved patient outcomes.”
To learn more about Mutare Health’s Vital Link solution, click here.
1. Health IT: Physicians are the Easy Part (HIMSS meeting) by Pamela Lewis Dolan, American Medical News, March 25, 2013
2. How to Satisfy Patient Engagement in Stage 2 Meaningful Use by Zachary Landman, MD, EHR Intelligence, September 23, 2013
3. Doctor’s Orders Lost in Translation by Marla Paul, Northwestern University News, by July 28 2008